Thomas J. Pingel

Assistant Professor, Department of Geography
219C Davis Hall, Northern Illinois University
tpingel@niu.edu       815.753.9208

My current research involves the application of near earth and terrestrial remote sensing to problems in human geography. Lidar technology is a key component in the visualization pipeline, since it produces a precise spatial record of the environment at a comparatively low cost, but I am also developing map generation techniques from UAV-based photogrammetry. Part of my work focuses on the development of algorithms to process and decompose lidar streams. I am interested in both 2D and immersive 3D representations of the environment derived from point-cloud data. My work emphasizes mapping techniques that benefit traditionally underserved populations, including women, people with visual impairments, and people with below average spatial ability.

Another main branch of my work explores the concept of spatial cognition in wayfinding and education contexts. I am particularly interested in accounting for preferences and strategies, and have looked at the concept of strategic disposition, the role of scale in search behavior, route asymmetry, and computational models of human movement over mountainous terrain. Ongoing work along these lines centers on increasing the predictive power of the slope-based human movement models that I have developed. More recent work is oriented toward evaluating the performance of geovisualizations in support of geography education.

My teaching centers on computer modeling and programming in support of Geographic Information Science. I typically teach Computer Methods & Modeling (GEOG 493/593) in the fall semester and Geographic Information Systems (GEOG 459/559) in the spring semester. When time permits, I teach a course in Web Mapping (GEOG 470/570). At the undergraduate level, I enjoy getting back to my international politics roots as I teach World Regional Geography (GEOG 202). Many of my classes feature a strong visualization and design theme. To see some of the products of those courses that are directed toward improving the community, see the NIU Student Mapping Project.